Tag: Helsinki

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Personal challenges for Teemu Selanne starting season in Finland

Starting the season in Europe is certainly a tough way to start the season. Between adjusting to ridiculous time changes, language barriers, and jet lag, it’s a difficult way to kick start a new year. The good thing is that each team and just about every player faces the same set of challenges overseas as they try to prepare themselves for the 82 game grind.

Then there’s someone like Teemu Selanne. For Selanne, starting his (probable) final season in Finland would be like Wayne Gretzky returning and starting the season in Toronto—only if Gretzky hadn’t played a season there in twenty years. From the moment the NHL Premiere was announced and the Ducks found out they were headed to Helsinki, Selanne knew the 2011-12 season was going to be unlike anything else he’s ever experienced.

Before the Ducks left for Europe, Selanne was asked about starting the season in Finland for the first time in his career.

“I don’t really know what to expect,” Selanne said. “Obviously, it was 2003 [World Championships] the last time we played there. It’s going to be fun. Obviously, they sold out the game so quickly and people are telling me that’s what they’re really talking about there. They’re pretty spoiled. This is the third or fourth time when an NHL team has started the season there; so they’ve seen a lot of NHL games there. But I think this is going to be a little more special.

“I think it’s going to be a great experience,” Selanne continued. “Obviously, it’s a very special place for me. That’s my hometown and we’re going to play against my home team, so it’s going to be very exciting. It’s going to be like a zoo too. It’s going to be a lot of people, [people] trying to take a piece of that week. But I think it’s going to be a great experience, I’m very excited.”

Selanne also acknowledged that there would be challenges for the team starting in Europe. Yet he saw the silver lining of the team traveling together as a bonding experience to start the season.

“Obviously, the trip is going to be a little tough,” Selanne said. “We’re going there, 10 hours time difference, and coming back. But I really believe that’s going to be really good for our team to start the season right away—with hanging around together for four or five days before the first game and get the team feeling again. I think that’s going to be very important process for us. I’m looking forward to going there. I know it’s going to be a great experience for my teammates.”

For Selanne personally, it’s going to be tougher for him than his teammates. He’s revered in Finland and dealing with an entire new set of circumstances.

“People need tickets and people ask if I can come there,” Selanne said. “Obviously, I have to be tough with that. There’s no time to do too much. We are there to win the games and start focusing on the season… Obviously we need to stay focused there.

“It’s going to be tough. I already heard that my PR guy back home has 150 interviews ready. I said, you know what, forget it… They come here and they always expect you to have time. It’s just funny—it works though.”

The trip got off to a good start as the Ducks won their final preseason game against Jokerit in overtime. Now, the real heavy lifting gets started when the regular season kicks off against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday in Helsinki. Selanne and the Ducks will try to navigate all of the external distractions and put their best game on the ice—because at the end of the crazy circus, there are two important regular season games to be played.

Rangers, Sabres, Ducks, and Kings to begin next season in Europe

NHL Premiere Series - Berlin
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The NHL has made it an annual tradition to have a host of their teams start the season in Europe and next season will mark the fifth straight season the NHL Premiere Series will take place. Next season, they’ll be adding a new location as well as the NHL will play its first regular season game in Berlin, Germany as the NHL sends four teams across the Atlantic.

The Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers, and Buffalo Sabres will all kick off their seasons in three European cities next year as the NHL returns to Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden as well as Berlin for the start of the 2011-2012 season.

Instead of having the teams close to each other pair off and play a pair of games against each other, there’s going to be some East vs. West flavor to the games. On October 7, the Ducks and Sabres will face off at Hartwalll Areena in Helsinki while the Rangers and Kings go at it at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm.

With the Ducks in Finland, we can hope that perhaps Teemu Selanne decides to give it one more year and play in front of the fans in his home country. Henrik Lundqvist getting to play in his home country has to  be a huge treat for him.

October 8 sees the Sabres and Kings face each other at the O2 Arena in Berlin, the first NHL game to be played there. Remember that for wacky trivia purposes. The Ducks and Rangers will play in Stockholm that night as well. Hey, Henrik Lundqvist plays two-night stands when he does his European tour.

It’s fun for many of the European players on these teams to get a chance to head back across the ocean for even a short series and some exhibition games to rally friends and family that can’t make it to North America to see them play. It also helps spur the talk that someday in the future the NHL will expand into Europe. We’re not buying that that will happen anytime soon, but it creates some fun discussion.

Personally, we’d love to see a Champions League format where the Stanley Cup winner faces off against the winners of the major professional leagues in Europe from Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and Russia the way it’s done in soccer. There’s probably a better chance of the NHL having a European division than there is of that happening though. Ahh pipe dreams.